Tag Archives: Festa de São João

Food traditions for the Festa do São João do Porto

portugalThe June festivals in the Lusophone world, commonly called “Festas Juninas,” are most associated with Brazil. But one of the biggest is actually held in Porto, Portugal: the Festa do São João do Porto. Though little known outside Portugal, the festival for São João (St. John) is one of Europe’s biggest street partiesLasting from the night of June 23rd until June 24th, the holiday celebrates St. John the Baptist (whose feast day is June 24), and was brought to Brazil by the Portuguese. However, the Portuguese celebrations are a little different, though there is the same merriment, dancing and fireworks that Brazil enjoys, along with some quirky Portuguese food-related traditions. 

saojoaomallet

Fireworks (and mallet) for Festa do São João in Porto by Black_wall

There is a ton of food at the Festa do São João do Porto, and one of the most traditional foods, seen on nearly every street corner, is grilled sardines, Sardinhas Assadas (and the recipe couldn’t be easier). Other somewhat stranger food traditions, whose origins are pretty much unknown, are also part of the festivities. First, a tradition is bopping other revelers over the head with plastic mallets (which were substituted for leeks or garlic flowers in former times, a tradition that is actually coming back). The other food tradition is the exchange of basil plants (manjericão) with your sweetheart. The plants traditionally even come with a romantic four-line poem:

Se eu me podesse afogar / If I could drown myself
Na tua pele perfumada / 
In your perfumed skin
Poderia flutuar, / 
I would waft away,
Viver sempre apaixonada. / 
Living passionately forever.

Who’d have thought a little basil plant would have such a major part in any festival?

Sao Joao Mangericao

A Basil Plant (manjericão) sign for São João by Tantegert

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Food for the Festas Juninas / Festa de São João

Festa Junina Dancers by Christoph Diewald

June is a very important month in Brazil, especially due to the many mid-summer festivals called “Festas Juninas” – celebrating the three saints days of Anthony (June 13th – Santo Antônio), John (June 24th – São João) and Peter (June 29th – São Pedro). Festas Juninas are naturally filled with lots of merriment and delicious food. The events take place in large spaces with festive flags called an arraial, and there are elaborate dances called quadrilhas. The festivals are particularly popular in the Northeast of the country, and one rather humorous tradition is to dress up like a “caipira,” in a costume similar to what those in the US would think of as a “country bumpkin.” Though those outside of Brazil likely won’t be able to get the full Junina experience (though there are some celebrations in the US), there is certainly a lot of food to try. Corn based dishes are particularly popular including pamonha, bolo de fuba and Canjica (or Muzunga). Another popular Junina drink that I imagine would be a stateside hit is Quentão, mulled Cachaça. Peanuts also make an appearance in Festa Junina food, and a recipe for Doce de amendoim (Peanut Bars) can be found on the House of Pinheiro Blog.

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